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Self-Driving Car Companies Are Going To Shake Up This Year’s CES

As people figure out what to make of autonomous vehicles, the venerable Las Vegas tech show has turned into a prime forum for education.

Self-Driving Car Companies Are Going To Shake Up This Year’s CES
[Photo: darekm101/Getty Images]

Along with the giant 4K screens and newfangled biometric bands at the International CES conference in Las Vegas, attendees have been able to check out self-driving cars for a few years now. This year in particular, autonomous vehicles will be on heavy display as the companies working on them attempt to ready consumers for the future of transportation.

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One of the big questions looming over autonomous carmakers is whether or not riders will trust vehicles that drive themselves. A Pew study from October 2017 indicates that 54% of people maintain concerns about autonomous vehicles. The stat is reminiscent of a similar one from 2014, when Pew found that more than half of respondents would decline a ride in an autonomous car. Still, there’s room to assuage these worries; the latest survey notes 40% of people are at least somewhat excited for this new technology.

For car manufacturers, component makers, and other interested parties, CES and the Detroit Auto Show are opportunities to educate the public on how their inventions work. It’s also a good time for companies to advertise where they’re positioned in the race to create the first fully autonomous vehicles.

Lyft has already announced that attendees will be able to catch a ride in one of Aptiv’s self-driving BMWs when they travel to 1 of 20 preset destinations at CES. Ford meanwhile is planning to give insight into how it will tackle the business of autonomous vehicles. Kia, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan will also have a presence at the conference. And chipmakers Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Intel will also be demonstrating various self-driving technologies at CES.

Beyond Autonomy

The innovations on display won’t be limited to cars that drive on their own. Ancillary smart car technology will have a presence at CES, too. Ola, India’s largest ride-hailing platform, plans to preview connected car technology built in collaboration with Microsoft, for example. Rather than a self-driving car, Ola and Microsoft are developing software to keep passengers productive during a ride. In another area of the CES, Autoliv, which makes safety systems for cars including driver assist, will be hosting a conversation about human-machine interaction and trust.

CES will also be a chance for LiDar companies to make waves. LiDar uses pulsating lasers to map the world around it. It’s a crucial component of current self-driving platforms and one of the most expensive pieces, which presents a challenge as the industry figures out how to make autonomous vehicles mainstream. At CES, several companies like Velodyne, LeddarTech, and Innoviz will be keen to talk about affordable new solutions in development.

All these demonstrations and booths will focus on demystifying rapidly evolving technology. CES, often dismissed as a hectic event full of quirky devices that rarely make their way to large-scale production, is turning into a forum for educating early adopters on tech that actually has the potential to impact their lives. In order to prepare consumers for the advent of self-driving cars, companies need to lay a foundation of trust that goes beyond safety statistics.

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About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company who covers gig economy platforms, contract workers, and the future of jobs.

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